What to do with a VPS? Here are 6 great ideas!

Wondering what to do with your VPS?

What exactly can you do with an always-on, always-connected virtual machine with server-class CPU, dedicated RAM, and super-fast disks?

Basically anything, right?

(Well, at least anything that doesn’t break the law or violate your provider’s TOS.)

From hosting websites to compiling your code after a commit to launching a multiplayer online game with friends, a VPS is your power-packed machine away from your machine (desktop).

Whether you’re just diving into a brand new VPS for the first time, or you want to take advantage of some extra space on an existing VM, in this article we’ll look to inspire you with 6 popular things to do with a VPS.

1. Host a web server

Running a web server is the #1 most popular thing to do with a VPS. It’s simple, affordable and can deliver far superior performance than cheap shared hosting.

Running a static site from your VPS is as simple as installing Apache and uploading your HTML files. You can expand by installing language processors like PHP and database applications like MySQL. Swap Apache out for nginx or OpenLiteSpeed.

The possibilities are endless and there are a number of scripts that automate the whole installation process. Install the meta package lamp-server^ on Ubuntu or run the centminmod script on CentOS for a Nginx based webserver to start serving websites without complex setup steps.

It’s also simple to install WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system, on your LAMP stack. Or choose a flat-file CMS as a simple alternative to WordPress.

Regardless of what technology you use, setting up a web server is a great way to get your money’s worth out of your VPS.

2. Save money by self-hosting apps

There is a whole range of self-hosted software applications to host on your VPS. They often have the same functionality (or more) as your favorite cloud apps but are completely FREE.

You can easily save hundreds of dollars on SaaS subscriptions from companies like Slack, Zoom and Dropbox.

You can even find enterprise-level apps like ERP software that cover everything from CRM to HR to accounting (like ERPNext, for example). This has the added bonus of making you less reliant on SaaS platforms and giving you complete control over your company data.

Or replace an expensive Salesforce subscription by installing Corteza on your VPS. Use it to create a unified workspace for your team and build an internal community through modules that require low coding skills.

Other application-hosting ideas include setting up a helpdesk on your VPS and have your staff connect to the application via their desktop or a mobile device. You’ll always be there for your customers but you’ll dodge that monthly recurring bill.

3. Set up a VPN

If you’re paying attention to the news then you already know how important it is to protect your financial details, company and client data from prying eyes online.

Yet, many free and paid 3rd party VPN services have been shown to have sketchy ownership groups or outright admit to selling your browsing data.

Think that sounds bad? Then why not set up your own VPN on a VPS?

There are several free options for self-hosting a VPN on your VPS, including the very popular OpenVPN. a popular choice to run your own VPN. You can also choose to run other VPN alternatives like Algo or Outline. The latter offers a mobile app, which lets you browse worry-free from your local coffee shop once you set up the server and connect the app.

4. Run a game server

Nothing like unwinding over the weekend playing games with your friends. You can use your VPS to run a game server. From the popular Minecraft to CSGO, you have a wide choice of genres to choose from.

Many of these games do not actually require high-end servers or attached GPU cards. For example, a 4GB RAM VPS with 32GB of server space could easily run a good Minecraft server for about 10 players. Refer to each game’s hardware requirements before purchasing your VPS.

Other games that are quite popular for hosting include Starbound, Rust, Factorio. For more ideas, have a look at the list on linuxgsm.com (which is also a command line utility to deploy and manage game servers)

👉 Click here for a tutorial on how to set up a Minecraft server

5. Set up a mail server

Break free from paying for hosted email on your business by spinning up your own full-stack email server. A basic 2 GB RAM server can run the MailCow suite and support up to 75 users. Think of how much it would cost to host 75 email boxes on a SaaS platform, the savings are tremendous.

The caveat here is that mail servers need more experienced skills to set up and a constant watch over the mails that flow in and out, making sure your IP and/or your domain don’t wind up on blacklists.

👉 Click here for a simple tutorial on setting up Mailcow with Docker

6. Level up your skills

Finally, a VPS can be a great development environment/sandbox for your testing and personal development purposes.

If you are planning to try out a new application, trying to install it along with an existing production software could lead to unexpected results (port conflicts as one example). It is great to have a basic configuration VPS to test and try out a new application.

If things don’t work out, you can easily reinstall the OS and start over. A VPS could also help you automate your build process by running the compile jobs, running tests in a standalone environment letting you use local hardware for other purposes.

Even more things to do with your VPS

There are dozens of creative ideas for things to do with your VPS and thousands of open source software options to help you get you there.

For a few more ideas, check out our article on 7 more uses for your VPS or hit up the Self-Hosted subreddit for some inspiration.

Finally, if you’ve got any ideas you’d like to share with our community, just tweet them at us @SSDNodes.